Alaska home burns down after space heater starts fire, officials say

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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - As the temperatures drop and heating bills rise, Alaskans look at the most effective ways to keep their homes warm.

When a fire started in Delta Junction over the weekend, authorities who investigated its cause say they have found where and how the fire began.

Just after noon on Saturday, Oct. 21, Alaska State Troopers and Fire and Rescue units responded to a home on mile 269 of the Richardson Highway.

The trailer home, which was already engulfed in flames, would later be ruled a total loss after it burned completely. The sole occupant was able to escape the home without injuries.

However, the cause of the fire is what is worrisome. In a dispatch released by AST, they wrote, "Investigation revealed a space heater had started a small fire in the bathroom of the residence."

Within 20 minutes, troopers say, the house was "engulfed in flames." Megan Peters, a spokesperson with AST, said in an email that "the person fell asleep while the space heater was being used to thaw some frozen pipes."

When it comes to space heaters, officials say there are some things you need to know before plugging one in this winter.

Alex Boyd, the assistant chief with the Anchorage Fire Department, told KTUU that all space heaters available for commercial sale have been evaluated and are generally safe and effective, however precautions need to be taken when using them.

"You want to obey all safety recommendation on the device's packaging," Boyd said. "The two biggest things are not to have the heater next to anything flammable, and not to plug the heater into a power strip or extension chord. The second one is primarily because space heaters draw higher amounts of power and they can overload those outlets."

The Fire Marshall's Office also has recommendations for using space heaters to heat homes or individual rooms. They recommend having a 3-foot "kid-free zone" around space heaters, and to turn portable heaters off when leaving the room or going to bed.